Turn Signals 101

January 21, 2009

Hello Boston!

That funny little metal rod sticking out of the left of your steering wheel — you don’t know what that is, do you?  It’s called a “turn signal”.

Why do Boston drivers refuse to use it?  Is it a sign of weakneturn-signal-intross?  A display of femininity in a macho traffic world?  Why wouldn’t you use a tool that is designed to increase the safety of others, as well as your own?


Drivers along the MassPike and elsewhere flit back and forth between lanes, as if they were the only ones on the road.  YOU’RE NOT.  There are plenty of us, and your refusal to use the turn signal, whether due to ignorance or your own lack of character (let’s just say you’re an asshole and be done with it) increases the chances of accidents.  Turn signals indicate to others your desire and your intention to change lanes, and that allows the rest of us to prepare, and to act accordingly.

Don’t you see that it is important to disseminate information while driving at high speed?  One of the key assertions of Tom Vanderbilt in his book “Traffic” is that there are insufficient means for feedback on the road.  Wouldn’t you want as much road safety information as possible when traveling at 70+ mph?  Wouldn’t you want others around you to know your intentions, or do you want your high speed movements to be a total surprise to everyone else?  Surprise is a bad thing when fractions of a second can mean the difference between a fatal accident and a smooth lane change.  As for other kinds of highway feedback, honking a horn communicates little except displeasure, unless it’s an emergency.  Hand gestures can mean anything, IF they are seen at all.  A turn signal is an easy-to-see indicator of intent, and requires only the merest flick of a finger.

Oh wait, of course you couldn’t spare that finger for a turn signal flick — you’re using those fingers to talk on your cell phones.   Or maybe you are using those digits for ingesting a breakfast burrito.  I understand: the effort to turn on a turn signal is simply too much for you.

If we are to take Barack Obama’s words about personal responsibility seriously, then perhaps we could add to those public services tasks the act of using a turn signal.

C’mon, Boston!  Try a little harder to be better, safer drivers.  Slow down a little, allow more room in front of you, and use your turn signals!